Election 2024 /

The Washington Times: New ballot setup backed by liberal megadonors is changing the outcomes of American elections

  |   By Polling+ Staff

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

New ballot setup backed by liberal megadonors is changing the outcomes of American elections 

The election season is here.  The Washington Times Reports:

“Ranked choice voting, which helped Democratic candidates win Republican-leaning House seats in Alaska and Maine, is expanding in the U.S. amid criticism that it disenfranchises voters and can elect candidates who are not favored by the majority of the electorate.

In the U.S. Virgin Islands Republican caucuses on Feb. 8, it will be used for the first time in a Republican presidential nominating contest.

Advocates say ranked choice voting is a nonpartisan election reform that gives voters more choices and leads to better, more issues-focused campaigns and fairer outcomes. 

Critics say it’s a scheme backed by Democratic megadonor George Soros and other wealthy liberals that is confusing, complicated, leads to the disqualification of thousands of ballots and allows marginal candidates to prevail who are not the choice of the majority of voters.

Ranked choice voting requires voters to do more than pick their favorite candidate on the ballot. They must also rank their preferences out of the remainder of the listed candidates.

If no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote, election officials retabulate the results by first eliminating the candidate with the fewest votes.

Voters whose first choice is knocked out have their second-choice selection counted in the retabulation.

 The process repeats until a candidate can win more than half the vote.

Scott Walter, president of the Capital Research Center, a conservative watchdog group, compared ranked choice elections to ‘putting the votes in a blender.’

He said it is not a method that honors the will of the majority of the electorate, but rather, it is doing the bidding of wealthy megadonors, most of them liberals, who want to eliminate hard-right conservative and fringe-liberal candidates from public office, despite their popularity with voters.

The list of donors supporting ranked choice voting initiatives includes the Soros-backed Open Society Foundations and Katheryn Murdoch, a frequent donor to liberal causes who was a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign. Another big donor backing the effort is former Obama fundraiser and Democratic donor Katherine Gehl.

Republican megadonors Ken Griffin and Michael Porter have also funded ranked choice voting initiatives, but, Mr. Walters said, ‘It’s overwhelmingly a crusade funded by left-wing Democrats.’

Mr. Walter said ranked choice voting undercuts the primary process, which hurts both political parties but empowers ultra-wealthy donors.

‘I see it as a further weakening of the two-party system. And as bad as the two parties are, they are a lot more accountable and a lot better than the megadonors,’ Mr. Walter said.

Ranked choice voting has been rapidly expanding in the U.S. — from use in about 10 cities in 2016 to 50 cities and counties in 2024 in addition to Alaska and Maine, which will use ranked choice voting for statewide offices and the presidential election in November.

The question of allowing ranked choice voting in statewide elections will be on the 2024 ballot in Oregon and Nevada. Initiatives are underway for voters in Idaho, Colorado and Montana to consider whether to replace partisan primaries with a top-four, ranked-choice election.  

Ranked choice voting will play out in the Republican presidential primary for the first time on Feb. 8 in the Virgin Islands, where six GOP candidates are listed on the ballot but only former President Donald Trump and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley remain in the race and are competing for the territory’s nine delegates.

Ranked choice voting will elect primary and caucus winners for Democrats in Wyoming and Alaska, while Maine will use it to determine the winners of both its GOP and Democratic presidential primaries.

‘2024 is going to be a very exciting year for ranked choice voting,’ Will Mantell, spokesman for Fair Vote, a leading advocate of ranked choice voting, said.

Heritage Foundation scholar Hans von Spakovsky calls those elected to office through ranked choice voting ‘faux winners,’ because in many cases they are not the first pick of most of the electorate.

Mr. Mantell said multiple-choice balloting ensures the winning candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, even though the victor is often backed by a compilation of the first-, second-, third- or even the fourth-ranked choices of voters.

He said this method “changes incentives” of candidates by forcing them to broaden their appeal to a wider range of voters. The process, Mr. Mantell said, produces ‘candidates who can actually win a majority, and maybe more moderating candidates, who are able to speak to more voters.’

In 2022, ranked choice voting gave Alaska its first Democratic House seat in nearly 50 years.

Mary Peltola, the Democrat, prevailed over two Republicans, Sarah Palin and Nicholas Begich, but only after three rounds of ranked choice tabulation.

In the first round, the two Republicans won a combined 130,835 votes, compared to Ms. Peltola’s 128,755.

After redistributing the votes of the fourth-place candidate, Libertarian Chris Bye, and then redistributing Mr. Begich’s votes in the third round, Ms. Peltola finished in first place with 55% of the vote, 10 points ahead of Ms. Palin, the former governor and a favorite among the state’s most conservative Republicans.

While Mr. Mantell described Ms. Peltola as the kind of moderate lawmaker ranked-choice voting seeks to elevate to public office, she has voted more than 95% of the time in favor of President Biden’s agenda. Her congressional voting record, tabulated by the political statistics website FiveThirtyEight, aligns her more closely with the president than far-left ‘Squad’ members Reps. Rashida Tlaib, of Michigan, Ilhan Omar, of Minnesota and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, of New York.

In 2018, ranked choice voting in Maine’s midterm election ballot for House races unseated Republican incumbent Bruce Poliquin, even though he initially won the most votes in the race for the state’s GOP-leaning 2nd Congressional District seat.

Mr. Poliquin’s 46.3% of the vote wasn’t enough to secure a victory outright under the rules of ranked choice voting, which the state’s voters adopted in 2016.

Mr. Poliquin was leading Democrat Jared Golden by 2,171 votes in the first round. But he ended up losing the seat.

The second choice of voters who picked third-place candidate Will Hoar in the first round were used to tabulate a second-round winner and they favored Mr. Golden, who prevailed by about 3,500 votes.

Mr. Poliquin sued, unsuccessfully, to stop the use of ranked choice ballot counting in the 2018 contest and his defeat helped Democrats reclaim the House majority.

Mr. Golden was reelected in 2020 and 2022, both times on the first round of balloting. Mr. Golden has voted for Mr. Biden’s policies in Congress 88% of the time, according to an analysis by FiveThirtyEight.

Chris Saxman, a Republican who served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 2002 to 2010 and now heads the pro-business group Virginia Free, said ranked choice voting used in the state’s 2022 GOP primary helped enable Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s upset win over Democrat Terry McAuliffe by sidelining a more hardline conservative candidate, state Sen. Amanda Chase, who might have beat Mr. Youngkin in a traditional primary format.  

Mr. Youngkin, along with Republican Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears and Republican Attorney General Jason Miyares, were able to jump into the general election campaign much sooner because they avoided a bloody political brawl and had more money ‘to define themselves to the electorate before Democrats did.’

Mr. Youngkin’s win put a Republican in the Virginia governor’s mansion for the first time since 2014 as the state has grown more Democratic-leaning.

‘This was the last gasp effort for Republicans to win a statewide election for probably a generation,’ Mr. Saxman said.

Virginia, like many other states, only permits ranked choice voting in party-run and local elections.

However, it is a more complicated voting method and as a result, thousands of ballots have been thrown out because voters did not follow the proper format. The elderly, minorities and those not proficient in English were more likely to have their ballots discarded when ranked choice voting is employed, a 2024 study found.

Confusion and complications in tabulating ranked-choice results have delayed learning the winners in elections, in some cases for weeks.

In New York City’s 2021 Democratic mayoral primary, which essentially determined the winner in the general election, it took 57 days for the New York Board Elections to declare Eric Adams the winner after ranked choice voting was used on a ballot that listed 13 candidates.”

In other words, well beyond any specific candidate in both of the main parties there is a whole new controversy out there on the system itself.

Stay tuned. There will doubtless be more to come.